Secrets Of The Dead

When I couldn't bear it anymore
the nurse pointed to the glass door
and said:
the grounds are lovely
at this time of year.
I didn't like to tell her
I was dying for a cigarette;
there were quite a few inside,
gutted from the same.

I found a bench, private on a gravel walk
and tried to breath and inhale
all at once. I saw an old man eying me
greedily following each smoky tendril;
Jaysus, I could taste that, he whispered
and I nearly offered him one.
But the nurse stood sentinel on my manners.

Pleasantries suspended, down he sat;
flannel under duffle; woollen hat.
It's not the illness that I mind, he said
it's the dying; and he choked and wheezed
with mirth, gallows humour being in fashion here.

D'ya know what, he said, I hate the thought of them ones
pawing through my private things.
I left a letter in my bedside drawer-
I wish I'd burned it long ago. They'll
see my dirty underwear; What will they think
of the magazines? I could weep, he confided,
I'll die of the embarrassment;
this set him off again, asthmatic chuckling.

We were driven back inside with the rain;
I took up my accustomed place again
and tried to think of clever things to say
and visiting time dragged on -
while I made a mental inventory of
underwear and poetry and love letters
and tampons and diet sheets and tried
to calculate how fast they'd burn.

by Geraldine Moorkens Byrne

Other poems of MOORKENS BYRNE (57)

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